Skip to main content

About this Show


Jason Brennan News/Business. (2013) The author and educator discusses his new book, 'Libertarianism What Everyone Need to Know.'




San Francisco, CA, USA

Comcast Cable

Channel 91 (627 MHz)






United States 6, New Hampshire 4, Washington 4, Milton Friedman 3, Australia 3, Islam 3, Afghanistan 3, Adam Smith 2, Watson 2, John Locke 2, David Hume 2, Denmark 2, Arizona 2, Beltway 2, Pakistan 2, Hume 2, Atf 1, Kato 1, Atheistic 1, Bill Watson 1,
Borrow a DVD
of this show
  CSPAN    Q A    Jason Brennan  News/Business.  (2013) The author and  
   educator discusses his new book, 'Libertarianism What Everyone...  

    January 14, 2013
    6:00 - 7:00am EST  

i took a lot of philosophy class is. i continued to study these issues. also, the challenges to them. >> how many questions do you ask in this book? >> 105. >> where did you get the opportunity -- where did you get the idea for the book. >> oxford university press has a series called what everyone needs to know. with the tea party movement, some of which is libertarian, some is conservative, issues going on in contemporary american politics, it seems like libertarian ideas are becoming more influential than they had been. i had to jump on the opportunity to read the book. i have a story to tell with this book.
one of my main goals is to make libertarianism seemed reasonable to those who are not inclined to like it. many books start with promises most people will not accept. >> how did you put it together? >> if i were not a libertarian, what would i want to know about? i think about many of the misconceptions people have. articles have been run on libertarianism written by critics of libertarianism. they were not charitable. they were criticizing a cartoon or strongman version of it. i was thinking, what would that kind of person need to hear in order to get a better grasp of what the view is. i thought of my mother in law. she is a committed democrat. she has a view of what people in
this movement think. i had her in mind when i was writing it. what would her objections be? i was trying to write it for that audience. >> how much of this reflects your own personal thoughts? >> i agree with most things, but not everything. i am not a conventional. people have a hard time pegging me with a label. i like the term, neo-classical liberal. not every question in there is my own view. i am trying to say what libertarians in general tend to think. there is a lot of diversity within libertarianism. i divide them into three camps. classical liberal, hard libertarian, and the neoclassic liberals.
they have different sets of promises to begin with, different views of what government can and cannot do. they give different reasons for their positions. >> who would you say is the most well-known libertarian? >>ayn rand, most people know who she is. she is not representative of mainline libertarian thinking. she is a notorious thinker. of all libertarian books on amazon, hers sell the best. she might be the most well known. more historically, people know who adam smith was and who john locke was. thinkers. they are well known as well. categories.
>> ok. it is where they occur historicly. classical liberals are people like david hume, adam smith, john locke. for them, liberty is the paramount value that has to be protected through politics. they are much more concerned about consequences. some degree of a welfare state, they are also using a large range of reasoning to get to their conclusion. many are economists. that was the way of thinking. it was not until the 20th
century where it started to mean someone who was on the left but not so lest they were a marxist or socialist. starting around 1950's, you get hard libertarians. they are people who think we have a very strong and extensive set of rights over ourselves and bodies and we can acquire rights to property. they can be difficult to overcome by other considerations. those libertarians are much more concerned not only with the consequences of different actions and policies but about making sure we respect people as ends in themselves. those are people like ayn rand. for a while, that was the crux of the libertarian movement.
in many respects, many who self identify with libertarians now, i would call them hard libertarians. over the last 30 years, at least in the academy, the action has not been in hard libertarian. it has been in this new thing. neoclassical are people who think we have an extensive right to liberty. rights to run businesses, property, so on. the explicit foundational concern for social justice, which is also thought of as an idea on the left. i mean something like basic institutions of society have to be institutions that benefit everybody, that give everybody a stake. behind. >> how did you change your thinking about liberalism from the class in high school to where you are now. what are you doing now?
that much. i have never been the heart libertarian tight. i think we have rights but i do not think our rights to property are deductions from 1st philosophical promises that we can prove libertarian is the best point of view. consequences matter. when you look at institutions, you have to compare how the institutions. any set of regimes that led a large number of people fall behind would not be a regime worth advocating. you can see within libertarianism two kinds of ways of thinking. people who find this nobel laureate economist who think a lot of the restrictive government has to do with a lack of confidence in political figures or society is hard to regulate versus others who mutually respect people's rights. i have always been in this camp. i come from its from an
economic stance. >> what are you doing now? >> writing two books. theory. philosophy studying the effects of democracy. political science. i am writing a book where i am dating compulsory voting with political scientists in australia. not. we are looking at the various arguments for and against it and the possible consequences. my view is the arguments for compulsory voting are not good. they rest upon known to be incorrect empirical premises. it is like waving a magic wand and it makes the quality of the electorate slightly worse. makable slightly less informed. you get slightly worse government. >> what age group?
do you teach? >> i teach everyone from 18 year olds up to graduate students in philosophy and executive masters and business students in business school. >> how often do you find young people coming into your class who think they are libertarians already. >> it is hard to say. i have a preamble to every syllabus that says, we practice academic freedom in this class. i have the right to challenge any opinion you have, regardless of whether you think it is sacred. you have that right against me. i will not penalize you for holding views contrary to my or award you for holding my views. everything can be questioned. i do not just say that, but i really practice it. the number of classes where a student said, i do not know
what anyone thinks in this class. we have been debating and discussing all of these issues for a semester, but i do not know where anyone stands. i cultivate an atmosphere where people can argue an experiment with thinking without having to label themselves. because of that, i do not really know where students stand. i do not look for people to become your images of myself. i am not looking to recruit people into a movement. coming from. >> is libertarianism atheistic? you cite liberty magazine who did a survey that indicated only 36.5% believe in god. you teach at a catholic college. how does that fit in with them? disproportionately atheistic. i speculate about why that is. libertarians tend to be more
philosophical and it just turns out that being philosophical makes you atheistic. as they say in the book, only 17 out of 20 professional fossils' our aid is. -- philosophers are atheists. that is a high number. there is nothing inherent about libertarianism that is atheistic. it is a set of theories about the limits of government, what rights we have, and how we ought to treat each other. it doesn't say anything about whether god exists or not. there are religious libertarians. a philosopher who dubbed the term neo-classical liberal that i am talking about, he is catholic. john tomasi. there are other religious libertarians. >> do you talk about your beliefs? >> no, i do not bring that up. a class i will teach next semester will talk about the various theories of ethics.
we will talk about divine command theory, which says what is right and wrong is what god says is right and wrong. it. -- i bash it. theory. it has nothing to do with whether you are religious or not. religious philosophers think it is a bad theory. and atheistic philosophers think it is a bad theory. i am not in a position where what i think about religion really makes a difference in terms of what i am teaching. i do not end up bringing it up. >> does a school like georgetown ask you when you are hired whether or not you are religious? >> no. the only people who ask me where some students. at the very last meeting of my interview. they did not ask whether i am religious pierre they asked whether my teaching methods fit in with the jesuit idea with caring for the whole person. i had a business ethics sell this with me to show the
students. was about cultivating virtue. it fit nicely. i have interviewed at other catholic universities. i will not mention which ones. they do ask, are you catholic. they have an affirmative action program for catholics. you are more likely to be hired. it is hard because it is a jesuit school. they are the liberal theological branch of catholicism. they are much more open. they have chaplains for other faith there. it even has a gay and lesbian center. at georgetown. that's not something you typically find that a catholic university. >> go back to the statistic about 17 and 20 philosophers are atheists. why do think that is? what starts first? your interest in philosophy that leads you to atheism or vice versa? >> i wonder about that. is it a treatment or selection effect? they serve a graduate students as well as those who complete
their ph.d.. graduate students as a whole right now or more religious as people who have faculty jobs. that is not necessary indicate they become atheistic overtime. it could just mean we have a large group of atheist foster's in the past and they are more religious than they had been. in philosophy, i tend to think there is an anti religious attitude. most people do not respect religion very much. they think religion is kind of a bad thing. because of that, there might be a tendency to push religion away. some of the basic questions in philosophy are questions about the existence of god. you will end up looking at some point at the various reported proust's of the existence of god. -- proves of the existence of god. many of the arguments are not
very good arguments. it could be because philosopher's get into a rational minds and say, believe in god is something that has to be shown. we will not believe in unicorns. cannot believe in god unless we have evidence. the arguments are not good. they become atheistic. perhaps. it is hard to say. >> two extreme positions that would surprise people about libertarians. if you are a conservative, you believe it, you are liberal, you believe pierre you still end up libertarian. how many conservative views fit in with the terrorism and how -- fit with libertarianism and how many liberal views fit in? the extremes. >> some libertarians like to claim that libertarianism is a mix of left liberalism and conservatism. it is economically conservative and socially liberal. it is for tolerance and equality and treating women as equal entry homosexuals as equal and allowing people to use drugs
and allowing alternative lifestyles that conservatives find repulsive. libertarians tend to be strongly in favor of open immigration. they think this is a very important thing. it is not something that is often talked about. at one point, i even say, from the libertarian standpoint, if you are not for free emigration, any pretense that you care about social justice is just pretense. free emigration means you have open borders that people can move from one country to another with few or no restrictions. right now, we have a system set up where, if you are coming from certain countries, the desperately poor and people who could most use coming to the united states have a hard time coming in. immigration is easy for people like me. if you have a ph.d. and are highly educated, you get job
offers from prestigious places, it is easy for you to move. australia has a system. if you have an mba, you get 100 points and can move to australia. libertarians think where you live is something like an accident of birth it has a major effect on your life prospect. because you are born on one side of the border, you will be desperately poor. the same person born on the other side of the border will have a rich life. they are otherwise identical. it is very inefficient. economists try to estimate what are the effects of restrictive immigration. they tend to view that that is the most inefficient policy we have. when they try to estimate the dead weight losses, they think it is 50% to 100%. 100% is the average.
>> dead weight loss? >> it is a technical thing. curve. what is the lost wealth, the wealth not created because we had a bad policy. if we have certain policies that restrict certain kinds of trade, a certain wealth could have been created. how much was that. on average, economists estimate 100% of world gdp. in other words, we are sitting on a trillion dollar bills if only we had free emigration. we could double world gdp. more importantly, the people who are hurt the most by this are the desperately poor. one thing libertarians -- they are often ok with sweat shops. they are a better alternative.
if you push people who are anti sweatshops who want to shut them down, those very same people are typically anti free emigration. if you think about it, we live in a system where lots of things can be globalize. you can globalized capital, financial institutions, but you cannot move poor labor. for labor is stock, sitting where it is, as a sitting duck for anyone who wants to exploit it. if you have a system in which people are able to move around, what you tend to find is when someone moves from a poor country to a rich country, even a poor job in the united states, the income goes up by 10. >> anybody anywhere in the world should be able to move to the united states without restriction? whatsoever. if we know someone is a terrorist, do not let the men. -- do not let them in.
if they are carrying terrible diseases, to not let that person in. by default, the assumption should be, you should be free to move between countries like you are free to move between states. if i want to move into canada and someone is willing to sell me a plot of land, i should be able to move there. i should not be able to be kept out. >> 100 million new people move to the united states and they had to be supported with social security and food stamps and welfare and medical treatment? >> that is a question i bring up in my book. if you open up the doors, it does not mean you will have a flood of a billion people moving in. the incentives to move in will change as more people come. the jobs will be less for them to take. if we cannot afford to give them welfare, that does not mean we should not let them come.
they are much better and well off here. you could come to the united states and mow lawns and your income will go up by a factor of 10. that is a great windfall for you economically. we are not paying them any welfare benefits right now. you could allow people to come in and not pay them the same benefits. as it turns out, immigrants tend to be good from a social security point of view because they pay a lot of taxes and do not end up consuming many of them. many immigrants come in and only want to work here for 10 years and then move back to their home countries. people might say, is it not humane to pay them the authority to not pay and benefits? it is more inhumane to not help them.
>> how many americans are libertarians? >> self describe libertarians, depending on which poll you look at, you might get 10% or 15%. if you give people a battery of questions, do you believe in x and y, depending on which poll you look at, you get up 30% of americans. if you ask the following question -- are you economically conservative but socially liberal? -- you get over half calling themselves saying that is what they are. that said, just because people say these things, it does not necessarily mean they believe them. if you ask most americans if they want smaller government, they say yes. if you want the government to spend less money, they say yes. they do not want to cut anything on the budget. it is not clear they really believe in it. i would have to say roughly as
low as 10% and as high as 30%. if libertarians were conscious and political, they could be a big movement. it could be a big group of people who have a shared ideology and have a lot of influence in politics. they are not organized right now. >> people who are watching this might say, this is all fine and dandy but it will never happen. why am i listening to this business about libertarians? >> one of the questions i asked in the book, it why care about this stuff in the first place? think about the consistency of your own views. libertarians have extreme positions, but their arguments begin with common-sense moral thinking. we tend to agree we cannot interfere with each other in various ways.
and yet, libertarians say i will not make an exception for person just because he is wearing a uniform that says atf. there is a default assumption that people should be free unless their individual liberties are threatened. >> let me go through a bunch of things. libertarians, for against iraq war? >> against it. there is a wide variety of positions, not everyone agrees. they are anti imperialists and anti intervention and anti-war. not pacifists, but thinking violence can only be used in real self defense. libertarians -- back in the 2000's, people were talking about there being a liberal libertarian allies because of the anti-war attitude. it turned out liberals were not anti-war, they were just anti george bush. >> what about owning a semiautomatic rifle?
can own guns. >> why? >> some will say, you have the right to self-defense. they think guns are a way to protect yourself. it takes a lot to overcome the presumption. others will say things like, you cannot own an atomic weapon. it will always kill innocent people. there is a question of how much risk you are imposing on other people. the more congested the area you live in, the last rounds you have for owning a weapon. there are libertarians who are in favor of gun control. you can maybe owned a gun but only if you demonstrate competence and are not a criminal. it would be better if people did not own guns. would be better if we did not have the kind of gun culture we have in the united states. they are not in favor of gun it
is too late. there are a lot of guns out there. it is something like 0.7 guns for every american. >> 200 million, 300 million. >> something like that. to put a ban on guns now, we cannot manufacture more, those guns are still there and they will not disappear and people will still have and use them. and in light of that, you may let people have them. you are asking me if i agree with everything in the book. i give a libertarian case for not having gun control. i do not feel that strongly about it. i think there is a much stronger grounds for restricting guns. libertarianism is? is what it is. no one gets to say what it is. you look at a bunch of people who call themselves that and see
what they think and why. they tend to fall into the certain natural kind where there are reasons they tend to give for these positions. like anything else, it is a continuum. take another ideology, marxism. a group will not agree on everything. you look at them and compare them to conservatives. there is a clear set of differences. >> put it in context for people. -- nick gillespie. he used to run "reason" magazine. put him in perspective for us. says politics versusu everything versus politics should be a small portion of your life. get on with your family and religion and business. get on with falling in love and having children. the biggest thing -- the reason i evolved into a libertarian was it made the most sense to me because it offers a vision of a world in which the things that are most important to us are
front and center, as opposed to saying, we have got to call another vote where 51%, or 49% of the vote, it tells the other 50% how to live. >> that is near and dear to my own heart. i say things very much like that. "reason" magazine, which he edits, it is a very tolerant -- it is about toleration. not just people leaving each other alone, but celebrating cultural diversity and people living different ways. that kind of freedom. the kind of freedom we aspire to within a liberal arts tradition. some of my colleagues have a vision of a society in which we are supposed to come together and deliberate about everything. hopefully we can come to a consensus. we are all in it together as a
community. in principle, maybe it could work out that way. when i look at politics, i am writing a book about this very point. it looks like empirically it puts us at odds with each other. you have -- we will either all eat the hamburger or the pizza. it will be a fight to the death about it. we tend to become angry with each other. i want to limit the space of politics as much as possible. i want people to decide for themselves. >> who decides where a road goes? >> there are some people who think we can have a fully private system of roads and that is a service that could be provided.
there are other libertarians except those are public goods and they have to be provided by government because there is no other alternative way to do it. let's assume that you is right. then we will have to use a democratic procedure for deciding that. the idea is there is a strong resumption of letting people decide for themselves. this is something we have to decide collectively. people are reluctant to call themselves liberals. if they are on the left. the presumption of liberty comes from a left thinker. people are by default free, unless there is strong and compelling grounds for not letting them do it. that is not to say whatever people do is a good thing. but rather, we should not interfere with other people. if something can be provided on
a market, it provides a greater choice. if we do not want to be provided from government, we have to do so. >> put david those in context. and the cato institute. >> i think one of the reasons libertarians are sometimes scoffed at in academia is the typical libertarian that the typical professor knows is a 19-year-old male who has just read "atlas shrugged" and believes he is the only rational person in the classroom and he will not let you forget that. most grow out of it. it is fashionable among libertarians to prefer the subtlety or the positive rigor.
it is even more fashionable among the less ratite to sneer at ayn rand. >> i think reagan was a conservative. he wanted to reduce the size of government. he did not. most of the deregulation and so on that occurred in his and administration had been set up by the carter administration. he cut taxes, but he also continued to spend. if you spend without cutting taxes, you are delaying when the taxation takes place. he was not really cutting taxes. he was doing it in a sneaky way rather than a nice way. he was a militant person. he was an interventionist. he wanted paltry conservative moral values to the respected by government but be imposed in certain ways as well. he used a lot of liberty-based talk. that does not mean he walk that walk. >> what about the assertion the professors look down their nose
at libertarians? case. bad thing. that is something -- that is how people are in general. most people have the following view -- my view is reasonable and other people are either stupid or mean if they disagree with me. stupid or selfish. that is the only reason anyone would disagree with me. that is true of your typical professional who is a left liberal. -- professor who was a left liberal. if they are not left liberal, they are hardcore left. >> why are most professors liberal or liberal left? >> i am not sure. people speculate you have got a group of people, when we hire people in my department, the faculty gets to pick that person.
we have strong preferences to be with people similar to us. we often do not think that is a good buys. -- a good buy us --bias. are asked if we are like that. you are more likely to like someone who agrees with you. there is a tendency where, if you are reading something that corresponds to your point of view, it seems obvious to you. you will miss some of the bad arguments because you like the conclusion. you will be more apt to challenge something you disagree with. it is easy for you to poke holes in other people's viewpoints. when it gets closer to yours, it is harder to find fault with it. the person who agrees to you will seem smarter to you and better to you and more congenial. if the professors were leaning conservative, they will be more
and more conservative over time. >> this book, you also mentioned the same thing. have you found that in some of the students in your class who call themselves a libertarian? >> your typical 19-year-old is relatively unsophisticated about politics and believes himself to be extremely sophisticated about politics. people have a couple big ideas and a hammer and they think everything is a nail. they tried to argue from their existing point of view. ayn rand has a certain way of talking. a certain way of thinking. she thinks you should be confrontational and aggressive. allowing someone to state something you disagree with and being silent about it is really evil. she does not tolerate
alternative points of view. she was the kind of person who would kick people out of her circle for disagreeing with her about music. that is how she was. a lot of libertarians get their first taste of of terrorism from that. -- of libertarians and from that. i would not say the students i have had are any more dogmatic and the marxist to this ipad. -- of the marxist students i have had. i find among my students if they have a political point of view, they are dogmatic about it. they are not dogmatic, it is because they do not care about it. it is relatively rare to find somebody who has a point of view but is not dogmatic. >> if you are a marxist, how do you differ from the libertarians? >> in some respects, in terms of policy prescriptions, they are close to being the opposite. there are anarchists libertarians.
your typical marxist wants to have heavy government control of the economy, control of wages, control of planning. more planning, more regulation, less economic freedom, a much more extensive welfare state. there is a big overlap in that. if you read libertarians talk about the iraq war or the afghanistan war about drone strikes in pakistan, then read marxists talking about the same thing, you could not tell them apart. marxists would say this shows how evil capitalism is. there is overlap about the particular issue. >> how does the institute fit
in with "reason" magazine? >> i see them as policy wants to help shape policy better. there are not doing anything radical. they are trying to say things like, rather than doing social security this way, we will do it this way. people think we have to do single payer health insurance. if we allow for competition, we could have health insurance that would be better than what we have. we tried to influence decisions on capitol hill in a way that is politically feasible, not likely. something that could happen. >> i wrote down a number of institutes you talked about in your book and i wanted to ask you about who finances these. the coke brothers were.
or into the cato institute. you had a falling out with one of the founders. you mentioned the foundation. how does that fit in? >> another policy group, and i do not pay enough attention to them. the mercatus group. >> the frazier institute. economics of the world report. their money. >> you mentioned kato. foundation. are they libertarian? >> they tend to be pro economic liberty. i view them as traditional conservatives. >> what is the motive for people to give money to these places? >> it is a good question. i have met donors who give money to places like this before. usually, they thought the world was moving in a certain direction and they think it is
a bad thing and want it to move in a different direction. people often say they must be selfish. they must want to get regulations on their own businesses. they want to lower their taxes. is that really what is going on? they are losing money. if that is what they are doing, they are losing money. they spend a large amount of money on something that, even if it did pay out, it would not lower their taxes enough. it is a motive to make the world fit better with their vision of how the world should be. when it comes to politics, this is a very big misconception people have about politics. they think the typical person as a voter is a selfish person. they pick their ideology based on what is best for them. there is a huge body of literature on this that that is not true. very few people vote based on their self interest. most people are doing what they
think is best. >> for? >> that is a good question. most people do what they think is best for the nation. libertarians are unusual because they are cosmopolitan. they do not care so much. they are not so concerned with american. a concern about the world. they tend not to identify with a particular nation very strongly. they vote for what he/she seems to be a national interest. your to the libertarian probably does not owe. if he did, it is for what he perceives to be in the world interest. >> the watson institute for international affairs. know anything about it? >> the institute at brown university. it studies a wide variety of political issues, including the iraq war. in the book i was talking about, they're trying to estimate the total expenses coming about
because the region because of the iraq and afghanistan war. how many civilians have been killed, americans, how much money will be spent. they estimate it will end up costing us $4 trillion. somewhere between 100,000 civilians in afghanistan and pakistan and iraq have been killed. >> how do you trust them? what makes you think the western institute knows the words will cost $4 trillion? do they go into detail how they figure this out? >> their data is stuff you can get from the cbo. it is nothing hidden. i might say the institute says x. if i will try to peg something down, i will go with peer reviewed academic journals. most people are not self this. -- are not selfish. i say that because there is a
lot of peer reviewed research on the issue. the washington institute are -- bill watson institute are writing articles and they go -- but what to institute are --the watson institute are writing articles and they go through peer reviews. they are more trustworthy. what i often try to do is look for people who are saying something that goes against their ideology. if i know you are left but you do a lot of research that points to a not left opposition. you have a sociologist at does work on family structure and your work tends to show proof of the things conservatives say, they are not doing this for ideological reasons. they are saying that because the evidence suggests it. for me, david hume wrote an essay and a couple hundred years ago about when to trust other people's testimony. for me, i follow his criteria closely.
>> why should people who consider themselves conservatives trust anything coming out of the left, liberal academic society you defined earlier? >> a good question. i will bring up studies. they say, they are all bias. if you see a certain number of people who keep doing work that makes it look like their ideology is correct, you have to have some reason to distrust them. if you see them doing work that does not correspond to their particular ideology, you have more reason to trust them. if you find people with varying ideologies tend to agree, you have more reason to trust it. take the issue of free trade versus protectionism. your typical economist is a moderate democrat. however, regardless of where they stand ideologically, it is rare to find one in favor of protectionism. it is not something that is based on one person having a
particular ideology or another. >> how much of this book that you have written cost? amazon. >> do you have any idea how many kinds of those books oxford publicist? >> they have 100 at this point. this is the first on ideology. the others are on nuclear power, cuba, china, and the very first book in the series was on religion, islam, what everyone needs to know. was written shortly after 9/11. islam will be a big deal. what we do about the middle east and the relationship with them. people had no idea what islam was all about. the books in this series are meant to correct misconceptions. people think they know a lot about some issue but they probably do not.
this is to correct that and get them to see there is more to the story than they realize. >> put this in context. this was milton friedman, who was mentioned in your book. measure. the government spending and federal, state, and local levels, amounts to 40% of the income of the people in the country. if you ask people, are you getting your money's worth for 40% of your income which is being spent on your behalf by government, there are very few people who will say yes. they are right. worth. wasted. it is being wasted in a very particular sense. you are spending money to two opposite things. at one place, you spend our money to try to propagandize us not to smoke. in another place, we are
spending our money to subsidize the growing of tobacco. you can go over and over again and find exactly the same thing. the government is too big. it is too intrusive. it restricts what we can do. it is becoming our master instead of our server. we have got to react against it. and cut it down to size. >> put milton friedman into context. >> i called him a classical liberal in the book. i quote one of its colleagues. i see him as having a particular way of thinking. he is still doing a lot of good work. they are not the kind of libertarians who say, we have natural rights. we cannot have a big government because it violates those rights. for them, they say, if you want to be responsible about forming an ideology, you need to balance market success against the governments success and
market failure against government failure. markets can fail in various ways and the inefficient. so can governments. both say, there are going to be cases where we need government to do certain things for us. the balance of evidence should be very strong in saying we need to do it. also, the balance of benefits vs. costs should be very high before we trust government to do these things. what milton friedman does is look at policies and say, is this working back he was instrumental in ending the draft. about why the draft was not necessary, why it was better to have a volunteer army, and so on. it was an economic argument. that is his way of thinking. a friend of mine once asked if there is a particular vice among libertarians, a thing they make a mistake on?
i do not think this is true of friedman. the quality of government varies from one place to another. denmark has an extensive welfare state and it works very well. you cannot go, what a horrible country. what they are doing, they do well. what switzerland does, it does well. when we try to do it, we do not do it well. country. institutions that work with 4 million people do not work with 310 million heterogenous people. i do not know. sometimes policies work well in one place and not another. it is also a left vice. i have colleagues that go, denmark has this policy and it works great for them. it is not obvious we can just take on that institution and have it function that way here.
you? in high-school? >> new hampshire. a small town 35 minutes north of boston. >> have you ever told him how much he impacted you? >> after the book came out, i got my first publication copy. i wrote the introduction. i sent him a copy of the book. a little thank you note. i sent it through amazon. i got an e-mail from him saying, it was really touching. i did not have his contact information. his students rode me. -- wrote to me. i have his e-mail -- i knew he was still working at the high school. he said something like, he was so touched by the fact i think him for this that he was considering retiring but now he thinks he might stay on for a
couple more years. >> what is the high school? >> in new hampshire. >> what was your family life like? >> my parents live in arizona. i went to graduate school in tucson. they came to visit me. they liked it so much, they moved out there and sold their house in new hampshire. >> what did they do in new hampshire? >> they were both working in a semiconductor manufacturing company that spread all round the world. not to get too personal, but my father is my adoptive father. i never met my biological dad. maybe that is one reason why i am more amenable to welfare state programs than other people. when i was a kid, i was poor. i was on food stamps. there will be cases where charity cannot take care of these things.
libertarians look at me, they think i am more left wing. >> why were you on food stamps? >> my mother had me out of wedlock at a young age. i said that because there is a perception among my colleagues, among the people on the left, that libertarianism is an ideology of the rich. bill gates is rich, bono is rich. i have a lot of data points because i know so many people. the people i know who are libertarian in the academy tend to come from poor backgrounds. other libertarians i knew grew up poor. robert, a famous libertarian phosphor at harvard, he was poor.
his colleague, he argued with, he grew up rich. i got into the university of chicago but i could not afford to go. i got a pretty good scholarship. at case western. i could not afford to go there. i took a semester off and worked making semiconductors. i saved up more money. at that time, i realized i wanted to be a professor. it was may 2, the year 2000. i packed up my stuff to go home. i was not sure if i would be able to complete college. i knew people would be disappointed if i did not. on a whim, as i am packing up my stuff, i have all the slots the books.
-- all these philosophy books. i am not a philosophy major. an economics and chemistry major. how do you get to do this? you do not have to pay your own way they subsidize you. to become a professor. you get your own grant and paid tuition. i thought, this is something i could do. i had a plan that i would go to a graduate school and be a philosopher. what i had to do was transferred to the university of new hampshire and i completed a philosophy major there in two semesters. i took 20 credit hours my first semester and 20 for my second semester so i could have the proper depth. that was it. from there, i went to grab school. i started in brown at 2006. i completed my ph.d. in arizona. i came in as a research fellow in political science. i stayed on for a few years in the philosophy department until i came a year and a half ago to georgetown university.
>> if you could only have one book, in philosophy. any book you have read over the years, what one book which to keep? >> that is a hard question. >> what one philosopher? >> david hume. >> why? >> he is such a reasonable guy. he challenges a lot of the stuff we do. for him, the book is supposed to be about introducing an experimental attitude into philosophy. it is not what me mean by experiment. it is empirical, observation base. hume things we need to look at the evidence and weighed very carefully. he is big on noticing we are not perfectly rational. we are subject to a wide range of prices that cloud our thinking. --of biases that challenge --
that cloud are thinking. and he challenges those. i am interested in political psychology. why do people tend to think one thing versus another when it comes to morality? what are the explanations for that that are not -- when you dig into it, when you realize where the sources of your beliefs come from, you become a better thinker. he is a great writer. so many philosophers right in obscure fashion. they tortured the english language or whatever language they write in. some do it on purpose. especially german philosophers. hume wants you to have fun thinking. i have two little kids. >> can we find you in the washington area in a band? i have thousands of dollars of musical equipment that sits in
by myself. i travel a lot for work. giving taught at universities and so on. -- giving talks at universities and so on. i would like to think maybe 10 years from now, i would be in 80's hear rock cover band playing van halen. for the meantime, not so much. >> our guest has been professor jason brennan. his book is "libertarianism: what everyone needs to know." thank you for joining us. >> thank you. i appreciate it. >> for a dvd copy of this program call 1-877-662-7726. for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at www.q-and-
"q&a" programs are also available as c-span podcasts. >> next your calls and comments on "washington journal." and then we talk about them as well abbas political future and then we talk about u.s. immigration policy. >> the fundamental idea to hear is that if you spend time in silicon valley, if you spend time in detroit where the automobile industry is being rebuilt, if you spend at -- time outside the beltway, you think america has the potential to generate abundance for its own citizens and the world. if you spend time only inside the beltway, it looks like a
zero sum game, it looks like lose lose and who will lose the most. what we tried to say in this book is what are the lessons of the technology sector, what are the lessons that come from the optimism in the technology sector and how can they bring us ideas we can pass along in the -- in washington, d.c.? >> bill clinton was at dell world and he said we cannot expect our businesses to compete if they only have speeds of band with at 1/4 that of korea. >> this is tonight on "the communicators," at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2. this morning, we talk about the government's new rules for mortgage lending and then